- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2001

An ongoing Pentagon review has spared major aircraft programs from recommended terminations, including the Air Forces futuristic stealth fighter and the Marine Corps Osprey, according to Defense Department officials.
A Pentagon panel on transformation, the latest group to submit recommendations to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, does not propose terminating the F-22 fighter, the multiservice Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) or the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey troop carrier, say two sources close to the panel.
The transformation report marks the second study group dealing with conventional weaponry to decline to recommend cancellation of major developing aircraft systems. An earlier study group on conventional forces came to similar conclusions.
The aircraft programs have been thought to be vulnerable as planners look for ways to carry out President Bushs order to leap current technologies to prepare the armed forces for future threats.
The panel reports, however, do not mean the programs are out of danger. The final decision rests with Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff, who could decide to ax or shrink the programs, or leave them as is.
"It doesnt mean they cant get shaped," said a senior official familiar with the panels work.
Mr. Bush directed Mr. Rumsfeld in February to spearhead a "top-to-bottom" review of strategy, weapons and force structure before submitting to Congress a final plan to boost the current $296 billion budget over the long term. More than 20 panels went into operation, most populated from retired military officers and outside arms specialists.
The Air Force and Navy have urged Pentagon panels not to recommend cancellation of the F-22 or JSF, arguing they already represent technological advances. The new fighters are needed, the military says, to replace aging fighters pushed to the limit during 1990s peacekeeping and regional conflicts.
Current plans call for buying 339 F-22s for $62 billion, and 3,000 JSFs for $300 billion for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
Pentagon sources said the transformation panel recommended a series of changes in command and communication systems, intelligence gathering and logistics, but left major weapon systems virtually untouched.
One official said the panel became known among some officers as the "happy panel" because its recommendations will not upset the four branches who are counting on new advanced aircraft.
The panel was dominated by hardened combat veterans, such as retired Adm. Stan Arthur, a carrier pilot in Vietnam and top naval commander in the Persian Gulf war, and retired Gen. Carl Mundy, a former Marine Corps commandant who saw action in Vietnam. The study group is led by retired Air Force Gen. James McCarthy.
If Mr. Rumsfeld decides to keep all developing aircraft programs, he would likely have to cut personnel to generate savings to augment the billions in extra dollars he would need from Congress.
Officials say one option is to amend the militarys current overarching requirement: that it be sized and equipped to fight and win two major wars nearly simultaneously. They said that since the requirement dictates the number of fielded troops, ships and planes, a less ambitious goal would allow a smaller force than the current 1.4 million active duty troops.
One idea is to shift to a "one-war, plus." This would require that the military be able to win a major theater war, plus have sufficient forces to execute major peace-enforcement mission, said one senior officer. The requirement may also include language saying the military must be able to counter new threats, such as terrorist attacks on the United States.
Sources said Mr. Rumsfeld has not decided to amend the two-war scenario, although officers in the Pentagon assumed one of the top-to-bottom reviews major goals was to draft a more futuristic requirement before congressionally mandated deadline next month.
Asked about his progress in deciding on a strategic requirement, Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters yesterday, "Mightnt we want to size our forces also for some other things, like a Bosnia or a Kosovo or a noncombatant evacuation in some country, or maybe one or two or three of those things? … It links to requirements as to what kinds of equipment and capabilities you need. And it is very complicated."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the strategic review is taking time because he had not predetermined the outcome.
"Some people think I arrived in this job from the pharmaceutical business with a head full of plans ready to bring out. Unwrap the cellophane package and hand them over to the Pentagon. I didnt."
Said the senior officer, "I know dont like it, but they dont like a one-war scenario either. You dont want your second enemy, once you are engaged with the first enemy, to think youre out of beer."
Pentagon sources also said that neither the conventional forces, transformation nor strategy panels have targeted big-deck carriers for extinction.
There has been speculation that one or more panels might urge constructing carriers one-third the size of 92,000-ton Nimitz-class flattops. But officials say they know of no panel report that explicitly makes that proposal.
"I dont think Rumsfeld is going to terminate any major weapon except the Armys Crusader" self-propelled artillery, said a senior congressional defense aide. "Thats what Im being told."

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